Articles | Volume 1, issue 1
Research article
04 Oct 2010
Research article |  | 04 Oct 2010

A new model of Holocene peatland net primary production, decomposition, water balance, and peat accumulation

S. Frolking, N. T. Roulet, E. Tuittila, J. L. Bubier, A. Quillet, J. Talbot, and P. J. H. Richard

Abstract. Peatland carbon and water cycling are tightly coupled, so dynamic modeling of peat accumulation over decades to millennia should account for carbon-water feedbacks. We present initial results from a new simulation model of long-term peat accumulation, evaluated at a well-studied temperate bog in Ontario, Canada. The Holocene Peat Model (HPM) determines vegetation community composition dynamics and annual net primary productivity based on peat depth (as a proxy for nutrients and acidity) and water table depth. Annual peat (carbon) accumulation is the net balance above- and below-ground productivity and litter/peat decomposition – a function of peat hydrology (controlling depth to and degree of anoxia). Peat bulk density is simulated as a function of degree of humification, and affects the water balance through its influence on both the growth rate of the peat column and on peat hydraulic conductivity and the capacity to shed water. HPM output includes both time series of annual carbon and water fluxes, peat height, and water table depth, as well as a final peat profile that can be "cored" and compared to field observations of peat age and macrofossil composition. A stochastic 8500-yr, annual precipitation time series was constrained by a published Holocene climate reconstruction for southern Québec. HPM simulated 5.4 m of peat accumulation (310 kg C m-2) over 8500 years, 6.5% of total NPP over the period. Vascular plant functional types accounted for 65% of total NPP over 8500 years but only 35% of the final (contemporary) peat mass. Simulated age-depth and carbon accumulation profiles were compared to a radiocarbon dated 5.8 m, c.9000-yr core. The simulated core was younger than observations at most depths, but had a similar overall trajectory; carbon accumulation rates were generally higher in the simulation and were somewhat more variable than observations. HPM results were sensitive to century-scale anomalies in precipitation, with extended drier periods (precipitation reduced ∼10%) causing the peat profile to lose carbon (and height), despite relatively small changes in NPP.

Final-revised paper